I don’t recognise Australia anymore. Not the Australia I grew up in, anyway.
My Australia was interested in equality and fairness; it rewarded innovation and generosity. It wasn’t interested in status, detention or the eradication of the different.
To be fair, my perspective is framed by spending my formative years in Sydney. I can’t speak from any other city experience. Perhaps Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth were different. Of course, I’m assuming Melbourne was very similar to Sydney.
So, Sydney. There was always an equality. It didn’t matter who you were, who you loved or what you did. I’m not saying everyone was perfect because that would be ridiculously naive but, on the whole, I felt it was all pretty equal.
When I discovered there was to be a stupidly expensive and pointless postal poll to find out what Australians thought about marriage equality, the first thing that went through my mind was how it had to be a waste of time because most Australians would OBVIOUSLY go with the best and fairest option: a resounding YES. I figured the loony fringe would account for about 5% of the No vote and, add to that the donkeys that never seem able to put a tick/cross in a box and I’d have thought the result would be about 90% yes and 10% no.
Boy was I wrong. It appears that almost 40% of Australians have no interest in equality or fairness. Is it possible that almost 40% of Australians are really homophobic? If so, why? What harm can possibly come from allowing people equal opportunities in life? Are these the descendants of the long dead Australians who opposed mixed marriages? I thought that sort of nonsense died with the 1950’s.
If I was made sad by the fact that almost 40% of Australians have a problem with how people spend their private time, the sadness turned to anger when I discovered that Australia is one of the worst coal burning polluters on the planet.
I was listening to Costing the Earth on Radio 4 the other day and a panel of scientists from around the world was discussing what now needed to be done that the planet’s average temperature had risen by 1 degree. Burning coal is one of the worst causes of man made climate change. Australia burns coal like it’s the only thing in the world worth burning.
Of course anyone growing up in Australia knows how important the coal industry is to the country. Mining has been a mainstay of the place for more years than anyone would care to admit. Interestingly, in the same programme I was listening to, it was stated that the UK burns the least amount of coal in the developed world. There’s a reason for this. Margaret Thatcher closed down the mines in the 1980’s. Mining had been a mainstay of Britain for far longer than Australia. Britain was forced to make a change. And it did.
Something that I found very upsetting and so unAustralian it floored me completely was the fate of the Marshall Islands. The islands lay less than six feet above the ocean and the rising tides are starting to wipe them off the map. When the president of the Marshall Islands asked the Australian Prime Minister to look into changing the closed minded attitude to climate change to try and help them, he refused to do anything.
Speaking at a university lecture called Climate Change Crisis, in Canberra a few months ago, the president said:
“It is hard to explain the feeling of being the President of a country reading a report that supposedly condemns your country to oblivion,” Hilda Heine, President, Marshall Islands
When did Australia become so horrid? Why?
And, finally, why wasn’t the ridiculously expensive poll conducted online? It would have saved a lot of money, counting and time. Like petitions and other forms of telling the government what you think. Mind you, that is pretty technologically advanced and maybe that’s just a bit difficult in these days of expert hatred.